Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Middlemarch in Eliot's own words

Further to my post of yesterday, I wanted to share some of the quotes that caught my eye while reading Middlemarch over the last month. There are so many excellent bits; I love the way that George Eliot can capture a personality or a thought in just a few words, or share an extended reflection that says what we've always wanted to say, if we'd only known it! Here is a sampling from the many bits I've extracted into my commonplace book:

Will was not without his intentions to be always generous, but our tongues are little triggers which have usually been pulled before general intentions can be brought to bear.

But indefinite visions of ambition are weak against the ease of doing what is habitual or beguilingly agreeable; and we all know the difficulty of carrying out a resolve when we secretly long that it may turn out to be unnecessary.

...whatever else remained the same, the light had changed, and you can not find the pearly dawn at noonday. The fact is unalterable, that a fellow-mortal with whose nature you are acquainted solely through the brief entrances and exits of a few imaginative weeks called courtship, be disclosed as something better or worse than what you have preconceived, but will certainly not appear altogether the same. And it would be astonishing to find how soon the change is felt if we had no kindred changes to compare with it. To share lodgings with a brilliant dinner-companion, or to see your favourite politician in the Ministry, may bring about changes quite as rapid: in these cases too we begin by knowing little and believing much, and we sometimes end by inverting the quanitities.

...wrong reasoning sometimes lands poor mortals in right conclusions: starting a long way off the true point, and proceeding by loops and zigzags, we now and then arrive just where we ought to be.

"I call it improper pride to let fools' notions hinder you from doing a good action. There's no sort of work," said Caleb, with fervour, putting out his hand and moving it up and down to mark his emphasis, "that could ever be done well, if you minded what fools say. You must have it inside you that your plan is right, and that plan you must follow."

There is no general doctrine which is incapable of eating out our morality if unchecked by the deep-seated habit of direct fellow-feeling with individual fellow-men.

"The best piety is to enjoy -- when you can. You are doing the most then to save the earth's character as an agreeable planet. And enjoyment radiates. It is of no use to try and take care of all the world; that is being taken care of when you feel delight -- in art or in anything else." [Will Ladislaw]


  1. Excellent choices - I love the second one in particular. And of course, Caleb Grant's.

  2. Yes, I loved Caleb! And there are so many other bits I could have shared -- thanks for the group incentive to read this :)


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